Phew! The whirlwind of Tishrei has ended! Here we are, with a bit of a “chag hangover” and one giant question: Now what? We’ve been living on spiritual time, flying high for months, and now, it’s back to real life. It’s time to bring all that growth down to earth.
In Mishlei it says, “Trust in Hashem with all your heart, and on your understanding don’t rely. In all your ways know Him, and He will straighten your paths.”
I feel like this pasuk is a big goal statement. Imagine being in such a close relationship with Hashem that you REALLY trusted Him with all your heart. Imagine having the kind of emuna where you KNOW He is walking all your paths with you. Imagine being able to leave your understanding at the door, because you are so SURE that He’s got your back.
This is the goal—seeing that Hashem is truly running the show. This is the central theme of every holiday, and really, of all Jewish life.
But how do we get there? Especially now, with “real life” swirling around us—and a million and one things constantly pulling and tugging at us—how can we ever reach that place?
Rabbeinu Yona explains that the answer is actually hidden in that same pasuk.
“In ALL your ways know Him.”
He explains, “There are certain people whose eyes turn to Hashem in big matters, like if they are going to leave for a sea voyage or go out in a caravan. But in small matters, they don’t remember Hashem, because the action is simple, and in their opinion, it’s clear that it will easily work out. Or perhaps, because they won’t lose too much if it doesn’t.”
Think about it—when do we reach out to Hashem? Most people reach out for the big things. If we have to make a big decision or, G-d forbid, if someone is sick. We also reach out when we feel like we have no control or really, really need things to go our way. Ever been on a plane when there is bad turbulence? Or tried finding parking in Brooklyn or Jerusalem? Even the staunchest agnostics will pray when there seems to be no hope.
But what about the other things? Have you ever called your friends to divide up Sefer Tehillim because you are about to make rice? Have you ever done a few segulas before putting on eyeliner? Probably not, but we have all had scorched rice and ended up with eyeliner wings almost to our hairline.
Here’s the thing: Everything, the big and the small, depends on Hashem. Rabbeinu Yona spells it out pretty simply—“In all that you seek to do, remember Hashem, and hope in Him to give you success, and hang on Him your trust, and turn your heart to Him, because the action is NOT IN YOUR HANDS.”
You are probably thinking, “Um, no. The actions are clearly in my hands. I have free will; I am making things happen.” So, let’s unpack this. What do we actually control down here? What is in our hands and what isn’t?
We only control our choices. We don’t control the results of those choices. We choose our actions, but we can’t choose the consequences. Everything that happens after the moment of choice is all in Hashem’s hands…And when we remember that, we can see His hands in everything.
This is what Rabbeinu Yona is trying to tell us—“In ALL your ways know Him.” In every single action, the little daily things and the big life-changing things, choose to remember Hashem. Choose to keep Him involved. When you do that, it creates a relationship—a closeness—which leads you to trust Hashem with all your heart.
So, how do we invite Hashem into the small things? The same way we would the big things.
But not necessarily as a formal siddur prayer; rather, straight from the heart, in your own language—personal, informal prayer.
There is a story that the Chazon Ish once went to buy shoes for himself with a close talmid. As he was entering the store, he paused at the doorway near the mezuzah and quietly spoke to himself for a moment. He then proceeded into the store and quickly found a suitable pair of shoes and purchased them. As he and the talmid were walking down the street after leaving the store, the talmid summoned the courage and asked, “What did the Rav do at the entrance of the shoe store? Was it a special ‘et ratzon’? Perhaps the Rav remembered something of his learning?”
The Chazon Ish turned to his talmid and smiled. “No,” he said, “I needed to buy shoes. So before I entered the store, I asked Hashem to please help me find comfortable, high quality, reasonably priced shoes.” He then paused and asked his talmid, “How do you buy shoes?”
Imagine if we took a moment at the doorway of Zara or before scrolling away, and simply asked for help. We all know that finding clothes which fit all our requirements can be a struggle. Why not ask for hatzlacha?
Sometimes, it might be that we feel awkward speaking to Hashem. One of my teachers in seminary, the incredible Rebbetzin Malka Kaganoff, taught us that if we feel strange when we speak to Hashem, we can always “write a verbal letter”. She would model it by starting out, “Dear Hashem”.
I loved this technique and brought it with me when I married and had children. Small children are often…um…trying, so I would pray a lot with my children around.
“Dear Hashem, Mommy is very tired and losing her patience. Please help Mommy stay calm and help the little girls get to bed.”
“Dear Hashem, we are late for gan and cannot find our shoes. Please help us find our shoes quickly, so we can get to gan on time.”
So my kids got used to hearing this. Then one day, I took my oldest (she was maybe 3) to the supermarket to pick up a few things for a sheva brachot. For one of the recipes I needed olive oil, which can be very expensive and sometimes outside of a kollel family’s budget. As I turned down the aisle, I whispered, “Dear Hashem, please help with the olive oil. Please let it be on sale or make it so we can afford it.” My daughter heard me whispering and innocently asked, “Mommy, what are you doing?”
I answered, “Mommy is asking Hashem for a sale on olive oil, sweetie.”
She then said, “Don’t worry Mommy, I’ll help you!”
And at the top of her lungs, she screamed out, “HASHEM!! PLEASE!! MAKE THE OLIVE OIL CHEAP!!!!”
As several people whipped around to see what was going on, I turned beet red and silently wished Korach could invite me to join him for a few moments…and then I gathered myself, and I quickly told her, “Great job, sweetie. Maybe next time a drop quieter?”
But really, imagine, in the supermarket of all places, my daughter and I connected to Hashem. By simply remembering that He loves us and cares about every little detail…even olive oil.
We can get to that place of knowing He’s got us covered by choosing to invite Him to share our days, our struggles, our thoughts and our needs. To trust Him with our shoes, eyeliner, olive oil…and also our hearts, and know Him in all our ways.